Tips and Best Practices For Shooting Your Business Video – The YouTube Advertiser Playbook: Part 2

Tips and Best Practices For Shooting Your Business Video – The YouTube Advertiser Playbook: Part 2

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Last week, we covered the extensive first section of the new YouTube Advertiser Playbook.  In that section, the Playbook details the importance of planning for your video before a shoot.  Now that you have a plan, it’s time to shoot.  The way this section of the Advertiser Playbook is written, it shows how unimportant it is to look absolutely amazing when shooting a business video.  But just because you’re not using the latest cameras and audio equipment doesn’t mean you can shoot like a slob and expect a poorly-composed video with horrible audio is going to cut it.

Shooting Your Video: Best Practices

Whether you have a Canon DSLR or an iPhone, you can shoot quality HD video with most cameras these days.  But you should follow some basic steps in order to get the most out of your shots.  Here’s what the Playbook says:

Don’t Center the Subject

I know most people use the “rule of thirds” when they shoot, but this technique is not always correct, so use discretion.  But for the most part, you probably should compose a shot using the “rule of thirds,” dividing your screen into thirds with two equally spaced vertical lines and two equally spaced horizontal lines.  Where the lines intersect is where your subject should be in most cases:

And here’s the video I took that image from, which has some good tips on the rule of thirds:

Keep It Stable

Unless you are looking for a handheld, shaky look, and I’m supposing in most business videos you aren’t, you should have a tripod.  Or use a stack of books or boxes to keep the camera steady.  Even if you think you can hold the camera as still as possible, even the slightest movement will ruin the shot, and unless you have no nerves and can survive without breathing, you’re going to move.

Think About the Background

Especially in an advertisement for your business, you want to make sure things look neat and organized in the shot, unless, of course, you’re going for some sort of comedic element.  So check your background for debris and make it look as easy on the eyes as possible.

Audio: Best Practices

Bad audio is one of the chief reasons a viewer will leave your video in a heartbeat.  You could have the best images in the world, but if the audio sounds too low or scratchy, no one will be around to watch the rest.

Speak Clearly and Casually

It’s important to speak in your normal voice, with enunciation and with contractions (we’re instead of “we are”).  In other words, don’t sound like Commander Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation:

Ask for Quiet

The Playbook says to make sure all your employees are quiet during the shoot.  Also, watch out for simple things like air conditioning and outside disturbances like construction, airplanes, traffic, etc.  Anything you can hear can be picked up by the camera or external microphones.

Write Cue Cards

In case you get lost while speaking, it’s good to have a cheat sheet of some sort ready. The Playbook says to write lines in thick marker so they can easily be seen, then tape it underneath the lens of the camera so that if your eyes wander, they still look like they’re looking at the camera.  You can also use a computer monitor and blown-up fonts on Microsoft Word if you’d rather not use paper.

Stay Close to the Microphone

The closer you are to the microphone, the better the audio.  And if you have to use the camera’s built-in microphone (not recommended), stay within 5 feet of it.

Avoid Zooming While Recording Important Audio

The tip here is referring to the sound the zoom makes on many cameras can be picked up, usually by the built-in microphone.  With an external mic, the problem usually doesn’t surface.  But, if you don’t have the means to get an external mic, the Playbook says: Try shooting at one distance, stop the shot, then record your next shot at another distance.  During editing, the transition will look seamless.

One Other Important Tip

External mics such as clip-ons and booms can enhance the audio dramatically, but be sure your camera can handle an external mic if you want them.  Some models do not have the necessary ports.

Equipment Checklist

Whenever the topic of equipment comes up, I like bringing up this episode of Film Riot.  It’s got way, way more than you will ever need on a simple business video, but it may give you some ideas:
Starts at 6:45 and ends at 11:18

The very basics as outlined by the Advertiser Playbook are as follows:

Must Have

  • Camera
  • Computer (to upload video from your camera)

Good to Have

  • Script
  • Creative strategy
  • Tripod (or stack of books)
  • Lights
  • Extension cables
  • Camera charger


  • Light reflector
  • External microphone

It’s good to have this checklist before going to a shoot, and have everything secured and ready so that time isn’t wasted locating it when it’s time for production.

For more great tips on shooting web video for business, consider checking out Steve Stockman’s book, “How to shoot web video that doesn’t suck.”  It’s a great read and has excellent tips and rules to follow for shooting web video that, as he puts it, doesn’t suck.


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